American High School Movies Are Pernicious

I really do think this is true, as of a conversation with Dancer Boy and Spanish Silver. The conversation was about how bits of the group have split off already into neatly defined groups, and put everyone into boxes. Now to be honest I hadn’t really noticed, I tend not to hang around with the others from the group because for the first week I was using my lunch hour to get my loan cheque sorted out and then to do various things for Writers Guild and now I find that everyone has paired off into groups. I tend to sit on table with a book for lunch, the Winged Postman joins me somedays as does the Chatty Coalminer; occaisionally I have been known to pick a table that gives me a good view of Scottish Dish.

Anyway thats besides the point, Dancer Boy feels like he’s been deliberately cast aside in a very schoolish manner. And to be honest, looking at the Liverpol Two, Sock Man et al, I can see what he means. Geeks and freaks have been discarded and ‘cool’ people have been decided upon. Of course this doesn’t quite apply to everyone but even so, I can understand Dancer Boy’s point; Spanish Silver seemed put out that because she arrived on the course a week late to find that everyone had discovered their nichey cliques (again I hadn’t noticed them, but today I suddenly did).

In any case, listening to them I had a sudden urge to point out that we teachers were behaving exactly like school kids. Then I thought about my school. At primary school, the ‘cool’ kids were the older ones; you pogressed into the ‘clique’ as you went through the school. Everyone played with everyone else in pretty much year groups. The apart froms being apart from Chain Tig or Block where the whole school except for the infants played. (That was only about forty to sixty kids though).

In any case, no real clique, more older kids are much more fun. Now in secondary school I remember different people hanging out in different groups, but it changed year to year (month to month somedays) who hung out with who. There were the sluts, and there were the role-players. But they are the only two group I remember as being defined. Various drama’s happend during school, but the whole form/year group on occaision got involved rather than it being cool or geeks or whoever else.

Even in Sixth Form when it got closest to being defined (mainly by the rooms of the converted terraced house we hung out in) the only people who didn’t get involved were a small group of four who thought that they were cool and my group of particular friends were geeks…I remember everyone else in the year ignoring them. But my point is this; the only time I have seen the groups or cliques division (which may or may not be happening at college) is in American High School Movies. I’m not sure it actually happens in real life, certainly when you reach university no one cares any more whether you read sci-fi or play basketball you just are and everybody talks to everybody else.

However despite the fact that the cliques didn’t happen to me IRL I was about to make a comment as though they did (now maybe their experience is mainstream to everybody except me although I doubt it), the High School Movie has inserted itself into my way of thinking, I object strongly to it having done that. Lying bloody Americans are seeming into my brain! Maybe they are all just this big hypnotic cult trying to homogenise the way we all think and act in order to take over our world.

An American once asked me if the rest of the world hated them, I said no. I wonder if in thirty years time that will still be true.

6 thoughts on “American High School Movies Are Pernicious

  1. All the schools I went to from Junior School upwards were as cliquish as hell.

    In Juniors, the popular crowd centred around the most popular girl (Georgie) and boy (Steven) and their friends (Joanne, Vicky, Greg and Jamie). This was the clique. If you weren’t cool with them, you weren’t cool.

    I was very firmly a geek. My friends were the ones who took music lessons, were house captains and entered all the school contests.

    At Bryn Offa, first senior school, it was exactly the same on a larger scale. The popular kids paired off into very good looking couples, the sluts got busy having kids and the geeks carried on collecting metal badges for their ties because the teachers liked them even if no-one else did.

    At 6th form, it was the same again, even though there were only 24 people in my year. The popular kids rallied around the popular boy and girl again (this time Nia and Lee) and their friends (Bethan, Helen, Craig and Andrew). If you were cool with them, you were cool. If you weren’t, you were a geek. There were three of us who weren’t cool. Me, Liam and James. Cliques existed throughout my time at school, and the only place I have ever found them not to exist on a school wide level was in University.

    And even at University, my college had a popular clique (which I was luckily part of for a while before I found Pulsar, meaning that I was not completely isolated apart from Emma on my horrendous corridor). Theatre Studies seemed full of cliques, particularly after I left the subject. And as for cliques in societies, they exist too, only on a much more frequently changing basis due to people leaving within three years at most generally.

    Everywhere I have gone I have found cliques, including an average size Junior school, a huge senior school and a tiny sixth form.

    Maybe you were just really lucky not to come across people who wanted to put you in a box, Mish.

    Or maybe you’re just one of those people who cannot be put in a box…

  2. The university’s crawling with cliques. Haven’t you noticed?

    There’s the college execs, societies, the society execs, the fringe (as much of an imposed as self-imposed clique, admittedly), different groups within larger societies (techies and luvvies springs to mind), and of course residence corridors.

    At college, things were organised around whereabouts in the canteen (or elsewhere) that you sat during free periods (most of the all-Asian groups over by the exit near the library and goths, metallers and indie kids in another corner). There was also the ones who hung around the college’s back door. I was with the ‘other corner’ group, also known as the Cubbyholers, thanks to our alternative lurking ground in the area outside the First Aid Room.

    At secondary school, each year had its own set of Arsewits (all male, and they didn’t call themselves that, obviously), Sad Bastards (we didn’t call ourselves that, obviously), and the Girls (who were actually a collection of ever-changing cliques, built around sharp knives and exposed backs). Of these three categories, only us Sad Bastards had both male and female members.

    Cliques happen in reality, and American teen movies pick up on them. Cliques are probably more noticeable in the US school system, since they’ve got a more socially stratified society (albeit informally, since there isn’t a traditional class system, just haves and have-nots), and so the films pick up on this.

    People band together with similar people – it’s a survival trait, and a social thing. They develop their own in-jokes, customs and attitudes.

    The thin dividing line between a clique and a circle of friends is when newcomers have difficulty penetrating the group. Pulsar and LURPS get like this at times, although I think because of the ugliness last year, people are more aware of it than they used to be.

  3. To leap gaily into literary theory (hurrah!), we define ourselves by that which we are not – I am this because I am not that.

    It’s weird, I sent a text to my friend Louise that I’d got the librarian job, and she replied "You’re a librarian and I’m a Sunday School teacher and Church member – how did we stray into Agatha Christie territory so soon?".

    So, the question is this – do we get pigeonholed, or do we pigeonhole ourselves?


  4. Wel yeah ok Archie therre are groups of friends with their own customs and in-jokes and all the rest of it, but at Uni have you ever felt unwelcome anywhere?

    I mean I’ve been involved in Swim Team, Sci-Fi society, Role-Players, Pagan Soc, Mountaineers etc etc. No one cares what you like so long as you can hold a reasonable conversation. At uni I’ve never had that feeling of ‘right, you are sooo uncool I can’t possbly talk to you’.

    Ok with theatre group yes there is a division between luvvies and techies but a very jokey one not a divide you know?

    I mean I know Man of Taste and Miss UD joke about there being ‘normals’ and then ‘those who wear black’ but really I’ve never come across anyone at uni who actually thinks like that and treats people in the way anyone who just watched movies would think American High Schools do.

  5. I’ve never referred to ‘normals’ and ‘people who wear black’. I refer to ‘trendies’ and ‘goths’, but where I come from that divide means a lot more than it does here, and I’m sure Miss Lucifer will back me up on this…

    I try not the judge people by what they wear/what their interests are. I judge them by how they treat me. If people judged me by what I wore or what I liked, I’d be jumping around between boxes so much that no-one would know what to make of me. I am after all, as you so succinctly point out, Miss UD.

    There have been times that I have felt uncomfortable around a few of the girls who study Theatre Studies. Not the theatre group – the actual subject group. Some of them have made me feel at times like I’m not in on a particular joke and I’m playing a game to which I don’t quite know the rules and no-one is allowed to tell me what they are.

    That’s how the in-crowd cliques make me feel in school.

    Having said that, they were a minority and I don’t see them anymore so I don’t sweat over it.

    I’ve never been made to feel unwelcome in Pulsar or LURPS. Having said that, someone once pointed out to me that Pulsar is made up of a lot of people (not exclusively, but a lot of members) who were the ‘odd one out’ at school. For us to exclude people for not being ‘cool’ enough would be more than a little hypocritical, don’t you think?

    Just my 2p worth…

  6. Well, yes, I feel vaguely unwelcome a lot of the time. But that’s just my self-esteem and shyness again.

    But that does exacerbate the difficulties that I have with getting into certain groups.

    You’re approachable and will approach others, so find it easy to get on with virtually anyone. Lucky you.

    Some of us aren’t like that, and we’re the ones who suffer from the cliquishness. Cliques aren’t necessarily deliberate – but when they happen, it’s pretty shitty if you can’t get into it.

    And yes, uni is divided up amongst the fringe and the extreme end of the non-fringe – they think we’re freaks, and they say so to your face. It isn’t simply a case of the occasional twat that you lived with in the first year, it’s them, their friends, their friends’ friends, and so on. We’re talking a sizeable portion of the university, far larger than the fringe element.

    Of course, in the middle there are the majority who might not want to hang out with us, but have no ideological objection to it either.

    I think your idea that things actually work differently are because, since the first year, you’ve been largely hanging around with people who are part of the fringe. For the entire first year, I wasn’t. I saw and heard the attitudes that the other extreme had towards the fringe. The phrase "fucking freaks", for example, was fairly popular. "One of those roleplayers", said with a despising curl of the lip, was de rigeur when describing the fringe.

    Half of the bad attitudes amongst fringers regarding ‘trendies’ or whatever label you want to put on the anti-fringe are the response to this kind of ignorant prejudice that we have to put up with (and some of their attitudes are a response to our response, and so on).

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